As with all challenges Mallett faced throughout an illustrious life, the cancer diagnosis was met with courage and strength, so much so that many were unaware he was fighting the disease. 

Coming to South Australia in the winter of 1967, Mallett crafted a career headlined by 14-years of dedicated service to the state, 390 wickets at an average of 24.44 and a remarkable 20 five-wicket innings, one of just four players to reach that milestone while calling Adelaide Oval home.

During that time, the quietly spoken, highly skilled spinner earned a baggy green proudly worn throughout 38 international fixtures, during which 132 wickets were dutifully recorded. Mallett played Ashes series’ both home and abroad, toured India with great success, and still holds the eighth-best figures at national level with his stunning 8/59 against Pakistan in 1972.

Mallett played in an era far different from the present; a time when even international stars needed to maintain a professional career in alignment to their sporting life. Rowdy, as he was affectionally known, would undoubtably have added heavily to his tally of top-level tussles had he not also been so hardworking and successful in his parallel path as a sportswriter.

One of the finest exponents of the art, Mallett wrote throughout his life, penning dozens of books and countless articles on the great game of cricket, each one somehow as fresh and unique as its predecessor. Recently, Mallett devoted his time and energy to a collation of South Australian cricket’s greatest tales in celebration of the Association’s 150th year.

Incredibly, Mallett’s most recent work, ‘Neil Harvey: The Last Invincible’, was published just three months ago, a perfect encapsulation of the work-ethic and genuine passion Mallett has for his work. Harvey, now 93 years of age, has spoken of his love for the book and joy in time spent with Mallett during its creation.

That passion for work extended onto the field of play, with Mallett throwing himself at every opportunity, most notably while fielding in the gully. With the electrifying duo of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson regularly turning cricket balls into weapons of leather, thick edges would fly at an alarming rate towards Mallett, but most teammates struggle to remember a single time he failed to snare the rapid blur of red safely in his hands.

Unfortunately for Mallett, that combination with Lillee didn’t do him any favours when returning to State cricket. In a conversation that further highlights the many paths that Mallett’s wonderful life intersected with, Don Bradman once questioned why the spinner was being bombarded by the fiery Western Australian in a clash at Adelaide Oval.

“I remember Don Bradman saying to me one day, ‘why is Dennis (Lillee) trying to knock your head off?’ ‘Well, he’s probably trying to get me out.’ He said, ‘but you’re a team-mate’. I said, ‘not when I’m playing for SA and he’s playing for WA’.

Remembering every classic encounter with a grin, Mallett always had the enviable ability to tell a yarn that induced the same in those who listened. Born of a love of life and all it entails, Mallett is proud to have been a part of the era he inhabited, and has never held a morsel of resentment towards those who play today.

“I’m glad I played in my era. We didn’t get paid a lot, but we played in a bloody good side and we played good cricket. We played as much cricket … we played plenty of grade cricket and Shield cricket.”

Mallett came to South Australia to play cricket, and he did that and so much more. Falling in love with the state, and one of its beautiful residents, Patsy, Mallett remained in Adelaide until his passing yesterday. A contributor to South Australian life through his cricket, writing and everyday kindness, Ashley Mallett was a shining example that you don’t need to be born somewhere to call it home.

As a child, Ashley Mallett harboured huge dreams. He wanted to take 100 Test wickets and he wanted to become a writer.

Rowdy, it is no surprise that you didn’t simply achieve those dreams, you surpassed them. A true inspiration, an even greater person than cricketer, you will forever be remembered and celebrated by the immeasurable number of lives you connected with. 

Vale Ashley Mallett.